People who don’t live in Los Angeles have a fantasy of what life in LA must look like. Towering palms. Bougainvillaea. Birds of paradise. And a fabulous bungalow tucked right in the thick of it, where every hour is golden hour. The Hotel Bel-Air, in the heart of the residential neighbourhood of the same name, is this fantasy come to life. One of the first sights to spot across the threshold is a swan lake. A lake with actual swans frolicking in it. The 12-acre gardens are part of the magic and made for meandering, with streams, footbridges, guava, pineapple, lemon and orange trees, as well as coastal redwoods that are most certainly not common in these parts. Out-of-towners and peace-and-quiet-seeking locals come here for privacy and to shelter from real life. Most never leave the grounds. In 2011 Alexandra Champalimaud did a full revamp of the lobby and spa, and designed the sizeable rooms to be lived in – they are cosy, with fireplaces, high ceilings and towels as thick as blankets. The bar is effortlessly cool, with photographs by Norman Seeff covering the walls, and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant, reimagined by David Rockwell a handful of years ago, is completely al fresco. You could venture out and explore LA, or you could order a crisp white and kick back beside the always-set-to-28˚C pool and forget there’s a world beyond the swan lake. This is where you want to stay in LA to feel like a high roller even if you’re not one. By Lauren DeCarlo
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It’s not a Rorschach test. Don’t dwell too long on Brazilian architect Ruy Ohtake’s uncommon structure sitting on a grassy patch in São Paulo’s refined Jardim Paulista neighbourhood. Is it a watermelon slice? An ocean liner? Step inside the gargantuan belly of a sunlit lobby, then spread out on one of the International Klein blue cushion couches to imbibe a glass of Champagne. More liquid satisfaction is found along The Wall, the lobby bar with its 60ft high stash of spirits (for bibliophiles, 300-plus titles hide alongside). Guests are sent on a sensory adventure, from the unlit lift and barely illuminated corridor to 95 white-on-white cabin-like guestrooms, where an oversized porthole window continues to play with a sense of scale even as an abundance of natural light flows through (highly effective blackout panels close it at the touch of a button). Most fun are those rooms running along the building’s elongated curve, featuring floors that could almost double as a skateboard park. Surround-sound speakers are hidden in headboards, and in the see-through bathroom is a tub with whirlpool jets; less hi-tech but highly coveted are the complimentary Havaiana flip-flops in the closet. Save your appetite for the plump pink salmon sashimi, spicy Amazonian cassoulet and Portuguese arroz de pato (duck rice) at Dijon-born chef Emmanuel Bassoleil’s rooftop Skye restaurant with its 360-degree metropolitan panorama and ruby-red lacquered swimming pool. Commandeer one of the white double daybeds and order Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha, colour-coordinated with the pool with fresh strawberries and raspberries. By Cynthia Rosenfeld
Built on the bones of an old temple (hence the name), this 142-room hotel is a haven for the hip and slightly edgy, and reflective of wider development in the Chengdu area. Designed by U.K. architecture firm Make, the hotel comprises two L-shaped halves separated by a verdant courtyard evoking Sichuan’s rice terraces. Rooms are minimalist and incorporate local materials (timber, bamboo, step stones) and architectural elements—ask if you can get one facing the courtyard. And while the hotel offers French bistro-style plates at its Temple Café and regionally inspired Italian fare at Tivano, head for the wood-lined Mi Xun Teahouse, whose design is inspired by Chinese medicine. With its vegan/vegetarian menu, it’s the hottest seat in the house—if you can get one.
This destination retreat is stylish and savvy—and in the mountainous Paro Valley of Bhutan. Intimate, with 29 guest rooms, the design melds Bhutanese craftsmanship with signature COMO amenities—especially centered around wellness. You're in a prime location for hiking and exploring the natural wonders around you, not to mention trekking to visit nearby Buddhist temples. You can arrange a half-day hike to the Instagram famous Tigers Nest monastery, then come back to the spa's bathhouse, where you have the pick of two Bhutanese hot stone bathhouses, steam rooms, a pool, gym and yoga studio, and treatment rooms for a range of spa services.
Named for singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt, a country music legend, this hotel fits right into the Live Music Capital of the World. Musical touches are everywhere: chandeliers made from French horns; a lobby bar record player that pipes tunes into the elevators; artwork in the shape of flying birds made out of vinyl. Every room has an impressive view of either the city or Lady Bird Lake, and is done in a stylish palette of gray and dark blue. But while the furniture is run-of-the-mill Restoration Hardware, the artwork is bespoke: think framed replicas of vintage concert posters and a historic map of Austin as wallpaper.
The Langham, Chicago earns ample compliments from former guests. Everything from the property's attentive service to its quiet downtown location to the delectable cuisine plated at Travelle Kitchen + Bar earns rave reviews from visitors. Plus, rooms at the No. 2 Best Hotel in Chicago boast spacious layouts (each measures at least 516 square feet) with elegant white, black and purple color schemes, rain showers, deep-soaking tubs, liquor cabinets and free Wi-Fi access. Additional amenities, such as a health club, a 67-foot pool and a spa, are available outside the rooms. (Courtesy of The Langham, Chicago)
Half an hour’s drive from Mérida, the state capital of Yucatán, Chablé began life as an 18th-century sisal hacienda, and many of its original buildings endure. The arcaded Casa Principal, its faded stucco the blue of a Madonna’s cloak, contains the bar and an enfilade of sitting rooms; the former machine house has been incorporated into the most ambitious of its four restaurants, which is under the auspices of Jorge Vallejo of Quintonil in Mexico City, ranked 11th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants; and a smaller building contains an immense library of tequilas. In case you feel the urge to atone for a surfeit of high living, the chapel of San Antonio, after whom the San Antonio Chablé estate was named, remains a house of God. Forty contemporary white-limestone-and-glass casitas are strung across the densely wooded 300-hectare estate, each with its own terrace, pool and hammock, and guests fall broadly into two categories: those who have come to explore the ruins of ancient abandoned Maya cities – Chablé is well placed for visiting Uxmal, arguably the greatest example of these on the Yucatán peninsula – and those who are here for the spectacular forest spa, where the pools are lined in tiles of petrified wood. Surrounded by jungle, a dozen treatment cabins are arranged around a cenote, a water-filled sinkhole which the Maya believed to be a portal to the underworld but guests are told is a fountain of wellness. It’s a place of such beauty and charm that even non-converts to traditional Maya healing rituals will succumb to the overall spirit and peace. By Claire Wrathall
Set in the Arashiyama district on the western side of Kyoto (an area frequented by Japanese nobles of years gone by), Suiran sits seamlessly on the jade waters of the Katsura river. The original buildings, which now house the restaurants and lobby, are constructed around beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and sunlight-dappled pebble-stone pathways lead the way to the more modern low-rise buildings that house the rooms. Yukata-clad staff welcome you warmly with a hot towel and tea whilst discretely whisking your luggage off to your room, leaving you to enjoy the serene surroundings, bathed in light and soothed by the sounds of flowing water. Here, chaotic city life is a distant memory and the deliberate and un-rushed pace is the catalyst for achieving a state of repose.
Truly private, and truly intimate; Karon Beach Resort and Spa is the only resort on Phukets grandest beach, Karon beach.Nestled into a quiet corner of Karon beach with the rooms viewing the crystal clear Andaman waters, the 80 rooms resort offers peace, quiet, and privacy on the famed beach with popular shopping and dining merely on the other side of the lobby.Designed in contemporary Thai-style and offering unique Thai hospitality, with stunning panoramic views of the Andaman Sea and the beach to yourself, Karon Beach Resort and Spa is perfect for getaways, honeymoons, and small family retreats. Read More...
Kayumanis Jimbaran Private Estate and Spa offers five-star luxury through its collection of plush pool villas in the famous beach resort area of Jimbaran.The sands of the pristine Jimbaran Bay is within only walking distance from the resort, down Jalan Yoga Perkanthi, one of the quiet side streets off the Jimbaran main road.The popular sunset seafood cafes on Muaya Beach are a few minutes south, and the resort 24-hour shuttle services can take you to the livelier beach resort areas of Kuta and Legian within 30 minutes north, and Ngurah Rai International Airport only a 15-minute transfer away in the neighbouring area of Tuban. Read More...
After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, the Four Seasons Resort Lanai reopened in 2016, offering travelers a new pool complex and upgraded guest rooms overlooking Hulopoe Bay. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Lanai and No. 3 Best Hotel in Hawaii encourages lodgers to experience Lanai. The hotel's employees can arrange activities such as snorkeling, horseback riding and four-wheeling. On the property grounds, travelers can indulge in a treatment at the spa, play a round of golf and enjoy tasty American or Japanese fare at on-site restaurants. (Barbara Kraft/Four Seasons Resort Lanai)
Celebrating its 20th year, this 60-room property in the Ayung River Valley is reached via a suspension bridge that hovers over coconut trees and rice fields. The drama doesn’t end there: each of the riverside guest villas has a meditation space and lily pond on the roof, as well as an outdoor living room and pool. The sense of calm befits the resort’s location near Ubud, the spiritual heart of Bali. Yet new experiences, including cooking lessons in a bamboo-clad center designed by Elora Hardy and Sacred Nap relaxation treatments, keep things innovative and modern.
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When Jasper Conran realised a lifelong dream to open his diminutive hotel in Marrakech, it heralded a new chapter in a city long beloved by designers. Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Willis and Madison Cox have all made their mark here over the years, but L’Hotel brings a new dimension, one that reflects the contemporary medina scene. Playful, Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole moments catapult you, on arrival, from a dark and brooding hallway into a garden that unfurls around a turquoise pool, scented by figs. The interior, meanwhile, is as pared-back and calming as a Scandinavian cabin. Conran’s personal collection of antiques and curios is artfully gathered together as if this were always their rightful home, curated across the five bedrooms, a grand salon in a hundred shades of yellow and a cedar-wood bar flanked by candy-cane striped armchairs. Venetian glass mirrors glint like diamonds from a tadelakt wall the colour of jade, alongside a portrait of Hindu maharajahs; exquisite Syrian chests are inlaid with mother-of-pearl; four-poster beds are draped in snowy voile and scattered with rose petals. Service is attentive yet discreet – there are no rules – but guests should definitely don their prettiest outfits when dressing for supper. Bouchra, the household’s jolly resident matriarch, is a phenomenal cook and her jewel-like salads and fragrant chicken, prune and almond tagine will have you pestering her for the recipes. Sleep late, wallow in an orange-blossom bath, come down for breakfast at noon. This is a much-loved city residence that avoids the usual clichés. By Tara Stevens

You can bet that just about every detail at this palatial hotel, which took more than three years and 1,200 master craftsmen to build, aims to please. Each of the 53 individual three-story riads has a mini courtyard (with a canopy that automatically unfurls if rain is detected); a dazzling living room and bedroom with silk-covered walls; and a private rooftop terrace with a fireplace and heated plunge pool. If you do decide to leave your room, (though, you very well may not) try one of the two superb restaurants, La Grande Table Marocaine and La Grande Table Française (both overseen by chef Yannick Alléno from Paris’s Le Meurice), as well as the indoor-outdoor La Table, which serves a formally presented breakfast and lunch—by white-gloved staff.

The stunning Harbour Town area is a great place to station yourself during a Hilton Head trip. And its standout accommodations, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town (part of The Sea Pines Resort), is certainly one of the most popular resorts on the island. Guests who choose to make the (somewhat long) trek here delight in the lush scenery, the luxurious rooms and the professional, approachable and welcoming staff. Rooms come with large flat-screen TVs, blackout-lined window treatments and spacious bathrooms with soaking tubs and Molton Brown toiletries. Visitors like to venture out of the hotel to eat (particularly at The Quarterdeck, one of Hilton Head's favorites), but most insist that you stick close to home for Sunday brunch. Harbour Town rests in the bottom boot of Hilton Head Island.

People talk about old classics, but this one has roots dating back to the 11th century. Shipwrecked en route to Constantinople, a wealthy Italian family built the foundations of the Caruso on a limestone bluff above Ravello, a symbol of their power and good fortune to have escaped unharmed. And here, their high eyrie remained, withstanding the wars of the Middle Ages, neglected, repaired, neglected again, until 1893 when Pantaleone Caruso stepped in and turned it into a hotel. Belmond (then Orient-Express hotels) took over in 2000 and began a serious restoration: art historians were shipped in to unearth the building’s arcadian frescos, archaeologists arrived to uncover the original medieval foundations. Today, Old Masters hang in the marble corridors and the 50 bedrooms have been brought up-to-date, but not charm-crushingly modernised. They retain their original vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and terracotta tiles, and have bathrooms stashed with bottles of Penhaligon’s. It has just opened Villa Margherita too, a two-bedroom retreat deep in the heady gardens. Guests feast on lunches of lobster, langoustine and truffles, or head down to the water to explore the craggy coastline on the hotel’s pretty wooden boat. It’s a place synonymous with seclusion, with its lemon-scented air and hanging gardens spilling down onto the Tyrrhenian Sea, stony nooks and quiet spots to sit and take in the dizzying views. And romance: it is said to be where Jackie Kennedy and Gianni Agnelli began their affair, where Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Virginia Woolf came to hide out. A truly brightening, timeless place. By Martha Ward
Closer to home, we saw familiar, boutique favorites, such as Vermont’s culinary mecca Twin Farms; Montana’s rustic-luxe Triple Creek Ranch; and Big Sur, California’s adults-only Post Ranch Inn — accessible again now that Highway 1 has recovered from last year’s mudslides — all make the list this year. C Lazy U Ranch, a family-friendly dude ranch in the Colorado Rockies, is making its World’s Best debut — and it managed to crack the top 100. “As someone who has been fortunate enough to travel to 86 countries, I can say that C Lazy U ranks at the very top of the list,” said one devoted fan. “The accommodations and activities are excellent.”

When a hotel opens in New York it’s not uncommon for locals to barely notice. This is, after all, a city crawling with them – big, small, modern, classic. In this town, it really takes an exceptional property, in an exceptional neighbourhood, to capture the collective consciousness. Which is exactly what happened in 2016, when The Beekman opened. First off, consider its location in the Financial District. Pre-9/11, this area catered to bankers and stockbrokers who scurried back uptown or to Westchester as soon as the market’s closing bell chimed. It was a no man’s land. Post 9/11, bars and restaurants opened and flourished; shops came; smart apartment buildings popped up. And then came the Beekman. The landmark building was built in the 1880s with a nine-storey, glass-ceiling atrium, but throughout the past century, the atrium had been covered up as the building functioned as just another office. And thank goodness, because when the property was being developed the covers were torn down, revealing the glasswork and wrought-iron railings beautifully intact. Now the glass skylight soars once again above the lobby’s Art Deco bar where New Yorkers flock to – come 6pm it’s nearly impossible to find a free bar stool. The rooms all have vintage furnishings, with dark wood floors and distressed leather headboards – they’re just what you’d want your New York apartment to feel like: comfortable but not so much so that you don’t want to leave and miss out on everything happening around you. The hotel is also home to two restaurants, Keith McNally’s bistro Augustine, a sister restaurant to the perennially hip Balthazar, and Tom Colicchio’s classic American spot Temple Court, both worthy of a dinner reservation. So many hotels like to say they’ve made the neighbourhood, but in the case of the Beekman it’s actually true. By Lauren DeCarlo
As if the Pen didn’t already tower above the competition – and it has from the day it opened, right opposite Saks on Michigan Avenue, in 2001 – a $37-million renovation in 2016 took it way over the top. Bedrooms were always large for downtown Chicago but feel even more spacious now, thanks to clever ship-cabin cabinetry. Indeed, interiors have a yacht-like feel, in both the space-saving design and the burled wood and leather finishes. Even the entry-level rooms have a separate living area. With muted pale-blue and steel-grey tones, the palette nods towards Lake Michigan, while a wall-size, hand-embroidered rendering of a chrysanthemum refers to Peninsula’s Asian roots without feeling overly on-the-nose. But it’s the in-room tech that’s the true knockout here, with all sorts of ingenious smart-home conveniences. From the bathtub, one touch on the ‘Spa’ button will soften the lighting, stream in a not-at-all-annoying soundtrack and activate the do-not-disturb sign. Maybe you’ve encountered similar tech elsewhere; the difference here is that it actually works – and you don’t need a 15-minute tutorial to figure out the controls. While it’s very hotel-room-of-the-future, the Pen doesn’t feel brave-new-world impersonal: there’s a warmth and softness to the design that feels timeless and embracing. But try and tear yourself away to check out Green River for craft cocktails and Gibsons for steaks. Abundantly comfortable, smooth as hand-embroidered silk but never too sleek, the Pen is far and away Chicago’s top-dog hotel. By Peter Lindberg

Twenty-six years on, Ellerman House is still everybody’s fantasy bolthole in Cape Town: minutes from the best beaches and the Table Mountain cableway, but close enough to the city and its dynamic food, art and design scene. Sandwiched between Lion’s Head and the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Edwardian mansion looks like a private residence from the road, one of many overlooking the sea in the wind-protected suburb of Bantry Bay. And that’s exactly what keeps guests coming back. The bar, restaurant and spa are exclusive to invited and resident guests, which means it’s very private and secure. Owner Paul Harris takes enormous pride in his country – his impressive collection of South African art spans original works from the turn of the last century to current contemporary art. An informal tour of the collection with one of the in-house art experts is a fascinating lesson in the country’s socio-political history. Then there are the 7,500 bottles of rare and vintage South African wines in the cellar and the indigenous plants sourced from Kirstenbosch (Cape Town’s answer to Kew) in the one-and-a-half acre terraced gardens. Besides the main house, there are two modern, minimalist private villas built into the granite mountainside, as well as a wine gallery and an excellent little spa. Checking into one of the individually decorated rooms in the house – many with local African design elements, some on the small size – feels both comfortable and comforting. As does the open-access kitchen. Walk right in, tell the chefs what you’re craving and it is whipped up in minutes. Better yet, take a snack back to your room. The post-sunset vista from the balcony has to be one of the best views of the Atlantic found anywhere on earth. By Jane Broughton 

At the No. 2 Best Hotel in Maui, guests are greeted with panoramic views of Wailea Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Accommodations are spacious (each room measures at least 600 square feet) and include lanais, locally inspired art, deep-soaking tubs and Nespresso coffee makers. On the resort grounds, travelers will find three saltwater pools, two tennis courts and a spa, but this resort's best attribute is its kid-friendly atmosphere. One of the island's most family-friendly properties, the Four Seasons Resort Maui offers everything from a game room to a waterslide to the brand's complimentary Kids For All Seasons activities program. (Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea)
The Hotel Universel Quebec is located near Sainte-Foy’s business district, downtown and Old Quebec. It is ideal for all types of travelers whether couples, families or business people. It is particularly suitable for sports groups due to its proximity to Laval University’s PEPS. Its 160 comfortable rooms are sure to please you but what sets it apart is its exotic indoor garden with a heated pool and Nordic spa. It also holds a Boston Pizza restaurant a sports bar-restaurant that offers good value.
This once-dilapidated, 65-room hotel tied for first in the world in the design category: it was completely rebuilt in 2004 as an exact replica of its 1868 self, with each of the original 247 windows placed in the exact same location as before. Today's rooms have feather-top beds and Early New England artwork, as well as flat-screen TVs and iPads. The bluff-top hotel also ranked at No. 4 in the survey for its location, offering views of either the Atlantic or Little Narragansett Bay. To explore in either direction, you can go fishing, surf or tool around in one of the Mercedes-Benz house cars, available for day use.
Proximity to all the attractions in Old Quebec of our interests. Comfortable, spacious room with ample storage; quiet, effective air conditioning. Nighttime silence despite location on the main street into the central location for street performers in front of the famous Hotel Frontenac and promenade overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. Helpful staff willing to haul our heavy suitcases up the steep and narrow stairs to our room.
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Flanking the northern base of Blackcomb Mountain, The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler prides itself on its picturesque surroundings, upscale lodging and first-rate service. Previous visitors recommend booking a mountain-facing room. Although they're pricier than other accommodations, these rooms come with cozy comforts such as designer bath products, flat-screen TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi. You'll also find an abundance of activities to choose from: Wintertime yields skiing and sleigh rides, while summer offers opportunities to hike and whitewater raft. And at any time of year, you can lounge along the heated outdoor pool, rejuvenate with a Canadian maple syrup and brown sugar scrub or enjoy wine tastings. In the evening, sip a cocktail at the on-site bar or sample prime slices of tenderloin at Sidecut Modern Steak + Bar (recent visitors mention that meals here are pricey, but worth every penny). Recent guests were thrilled with the exceptional service at this Four Seasons property, but thought the parking fees were a tad high. 
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